A short side story to The Cave Chronicles. I've been writing a few Cave stories in my head of late, and I actually sent one off to a short story anthology, from which I should hear back soon. Let's hope my submission was successful! In the meantime, I wanted to write a vampire story about two friends who are going hunting one night. Enjoy!
"How do I look?"
I twirled on the spot hesitantly. Crystal looked me over with a frown. Her eyes--pupil, iris and scelera--were totally turquoise, but a glimmer of light indicated she was scanning me thoughtfully. I trusted Crystal because she was a Brown, and the Browns knew good fashion. Her mum, Diamond, was on the cover of BloodType just as often as the Manheims, and sometimes I got to go to her catwalk shows, The Spooks. Crystal was a year older than me, and so she'd already done her First Hunt. She not only agreed to style me, but come along as my hunting buddy. Mistress Pleasant had taught us all she knew about the tools we vampires can use to our advantage, but like everyone else, I was nervous. My Charming abilities weren't amazing, to be honest, and I started to doubt that any human would be convinced by me at all. Crystal, ever the prodigy, picked up on my nerves. I saw her skin ripple as her empath abilities came into play.
"You look great," she said, "and you'll do fine. Remember Vanessa? How timid and dumb she is? She got five humans on her First Hunt! If Vanessa can do it, so can you."
I shrugged. "I'll take your word for it," I said.
"Yes, please do."
Afterwards, we left Crystal's house and walked towards the city centre of our home. The Cave is a massive underground city, sleeping unquietly beneath London. All of us who live in The Cave are Creeps, people of the underworld. It's not only home to us vampires, but zombies, witches, wraiths, mages, warlocks, werewolves and ghosts all exist under here, away from the prying eyes of humans. Most Creeps have to stay down here for their own safety and to maintain the Concealment Act--our pact with the mayor of London and the Royal Family--but vampires are allowed to feed at night, as long as we abide by the rules: don't kill, don't reveal The Cave's presence, and always Charm our meals, never take blood by force. Once a year, a group of sixteen year olds like myself, get to go to the Outside, in London, on our First Hunt. Before sixteen, vampires feed from blood banks until we discover our Disposition, which is the blood type our bodies align to. After our First Hunt, we're free to come and go as we please.
The First Hunt is a huge moment for us: the press come along, and so does the mayor's daughter, Peaches Rowe, to give a speech on the importance of secrecy and whatever. That year was massive for two reasons: Chloe Manheim, the youngest daughter of the Manheim clan, was also going on her First Hunt, and so was her bestie Penny Dido, a major celebrity in the Creep world, although she wasn't a vampire. The second thrill was Hollow Walker, the best hunter in all The Cave--like, he was famous among vampires around the whole world. He came to help us that year.
I remember when I first started at Greymalkin's Academy, Hollow was just finishing school. He was a big shot then, too. When I heard about his First Hunt, I decided that I wanted to be just as good as him, so I spent a lot of time listening attentively our Charming lessons. For vampires, Charming is how we lure humans to give us their blood; it's like we've put a spell on them, and they get swept away by us. A Charmed human is a dangerous thing, you know: they'd do anything we tell them to. Hollow Walker's Charm abilities were so powerful that he could bewitch other vampires, senior vampires who've been alive for hundreds of years. I'd never seen anything like it.
"Stop day dreaming," said Crystal, "otherwise we'll be late!"
We picked up the pace, dashing past a cluster of witches, their green skins glowing beneath the spell of a joke. Their cackling rang out through the town, and the sound of their black cats, Familiars, mewing and purring beside them rattled my sensitive ears. There was a wizard trying to hoodwink a group of wraiths by the clock tower, he was playing an odd tune on his flute as he sold them unicorn hair. The wraiths were staring at the bundles of what was obviously bleached straw in wonder, their eyes were big and scarlet. Crystal and I clamped our ears shut instinctively: silly wraiths. Never trust a wizard with a flute.
At last, we were at the entrance. There was a set of oak doors in front of us with a sign reading Outside. On the other side were a series of chutes. Every now and then, a group of Creeps would emerge from the chutes like children on a slide, and then continue their Cave lives like normal: they were just coming back from the Outside. A mass of people surrounded the Outside entrance; reporters and journalists were a flash of noisy light, their camera bulbs sizzling beneath the glare. Of course Chloe Manheim was there, and so was her mother Morwenna, the Ghoul-winning actress. They had pink hair and eyes, and bounced above the crowd like candyfloss puffs. I felt self-conscious again.
"Let's make our own entrance!" said Crystal, and before I could protest, she had grabbed my arm and we were launched into the air, gliding through the din, pockets of wind were trapped beneath our hair, which whipped about our heads with hurricane force. A few people looked up at us, a turquoise wonder and her orange-haired friend, before turning their attention to the presence of a tall, athletic vampire with long black hair that fell to the small of his back, and pitch black eyes that were bottomless and penetrating. Hollow Walker waved sheepishly at the fans he never knew he had, before glancing up at us. He smiled at me, not at Crystal. His black, expansive eyes were on me, and he smiled. I waved without thinking, frantically almost, and lost my stride. Crystal and I span in the air.
"Eyy!" said Crystal.
"Let's go down!" I said, "We'll say hi up close!"
When we touched down, however, Peaches Rowe had appeared, said her spiel, and then we were whisked away to the oak doors. Hollow was up in front of us, flanked by Chloe and Penny. It looked like they would have his attention for the hunt. I won't lie, I was crestfallen, but I couldn't let it spoil my excitement: I was actually going Outside!
The doors swung open, revealing a dark stairway. A set of wooden, rickety escalators moved upwards staggeringly, and small puffs of gold, enchanted cloud held them aloft. The clouds hung like grapes from the escalators, every new step was animated because of them. I took my first step, feeling the cool breeze wash over my face. I closed my eyes and waited until I knew we were outside. Upwards and upwards we went, everyone was chatting and laughing and messing about, and Crystal was rabbiting on beside me, but I couldn't hear, I was just focused on our goal.
I felt it, the Outside. The trapdoor opened above us and everyone went silent. In twos, the vampires and their chaperones left the comforting shadows of The Cave and stepped foot on the pavement of the human world. Crystal rubbed my shoulders comfortingly, and I too, hopped onto the ground Outside, stepping off the escalator with ease. The entrance to The Cave was beneath the underpass on Stainer Street, London Bridge. It was apparently a bustling tourist spot, but at half-past midnight, Stainer Street was fairly empty. Everyone else had already disappeared with their friends, as advised by our vampire teachers at Greymalkins, Mistress Pleasant, our Charm teacher, and Mistress Walker, Hollow's mum. The students hid their presence well and had quickly left the area without causing a scene. Crystal materialised beside me, and we both followed suit, running with superspeed away from the underpass and into the pale moonlight of London Bridge.
There were many humans about. For the first time, I was stunned. Fat humans, frail humans, homeless humans, short humans, all pulsing with blood.
"Can you sense it?" said Crystal, "your Disposition."
"Yeah, I can," I said. I instinctively swept my orange hair into a bun and trained my identically coloured eyes onto the night, sniffing excitedly. There were loads of my Disposition about, walking slowly, running for buses, drinking in pubs.
Crystal sniffed too, her smooth, russet face directed towards the night sky. "I've found a couple of mine," she said, "but they can wait. You first. How d'you feel?"
"A bit nervous," I said, "but I can feel something in my chest..."
"It's your heart," said Crystal, "strange, right?"
I nodded, a little scared. I obviously knew that there was a small part of our hearts, deeply embedded within the aorta, that was still alive. This is what kept vampires animated, and we fed on blood to replenish it. The reason why a stake through the heart often kills us is because most times, vampire hunters pierce that vital artery--but if you really want to kill us, you'll have to burn the heart completely. But this was the first time I noticed I had one. It was a weird, irregular thumping, beating an uncertain rhythm on the inside of my chest.
"Let's go, then!" said Crystal. We ran towards the high street, crossed the road and passed Hay's Galleria, a golden courtyard of a shopping mall, and then stopped at a shopping concourse comprised of black glass buildings that jutted against the night sky at odd angles, like broken shards of a giant mirror. We scaled the nearest building to get to the roof more easily, crossed the space quickly, and then stopped at the other end. There were people milling about outside a restaurant, Gaucho, and even though I could smell the stench of old cow blood, my Disposition was definitely there.
"I'll watch from here," said Crystal, "go on, you can do it."
I felt within myself for my vampiric instinct, that confidence that only we have. I reminded myself that I was a vampire, an heiress of the most prestigious, strongest and enviable species in our world. No one was like us, no human could best us, we were a class of our own among Creep and man. Stories were written about us an humans wanted to be us, and I was a privileged class, a vampire from birth, hailing from a line of vampires that dated back to the nineteenth century. The more I praised myself, the hotter I became, just as Mistress Pleasant told us in class. A warmth flooded all over me and I knew I had turned my Charm on properly.
"Beautiful," whistled Crystal, "go get 'em."
I leapt off the building and landed silently on the ground. The small crowd had moved away from Gaucho and was now walking across the concourse towards the bridge. I hovered a few paces behind them, and waited until they were leaning against the wall, looking over the Thames towards Tower Bridge and the Tower of London. Two guys, two girls. Both of the guys were mine. I grew hotter. I directed my will towards the group, until they started looking around enquiringly. Before they knew what hit them, I was standing beside them, looking out at the river. The lights from the bride reflected on the water, shimmering like glitter confetti. The Tower was illuminated by pale, gold light, and the skyscrapers were tall, each one was lit by twinkling windows and bright scarlet beams to ward away aircraft. It was beautiful. The Outside was a wonder.
"Excuse me," I said, taking my eyes away from the scene. They all started at the sound of my voice, "I was wondering if you could help me? I think I'm lost."
The two women were staring at something above and beside me, their eyes lost and wandering. The two men were fixated on me with gormless grins.
"Oh, hold on a second, " I whispered to the first one, and I held his hand in mine. Without a second thought, I plunged by fangs into his vein, sucking desperately. He groaned above me in strained pleasure, and I didn't want to stop. It tasted like treacle, and it was only then that I realised my throat had been perpetually dry for my whole life. I felt like I had been lost on a desert for years, and finally came across a source of water to quench my thirst. It was the most satisfying feeling. I quickly drew away from him, blood dribbling down my chin. He staggered onto the wall, his female friends still perplexed, but seemingly aware that something strange had happened. And then onto the next one. His blood was cleaner, without alcohol, and fresh. I think Mistress Walker told us that blood like this belonged to vegetarians. What was he doing at the restaurant with the dead cows, then? Unlike the first one, I didn't stop. I refused to. There was a dark heat building up from the soles of my feet, sweeping over my whole body. It was the sweetest feeling. I could hear the man whimper, and from the corner of my eye, I saw that the movements of his friend were no longer weak. He was coming to his senses, but I wouldn't stop.
I felt a heavy blow in my stomach, and I was flown backwards, several feet, on the floor. I was breathless, but not because of the blow. The blood from the two men was coursing through me, making that dead heart of mine pump erratically, as if I was running a marathon. When I came to my senses, I saw that Crystal was in the middle of the group, talking energetically. They were all staring at her in wonder, laughing at some joke she must have told, the two men holding their wrists, which would have closed, but not without soreness. A pale, white hand appeared before my eyes and I saw Hollow staring down at me sympathetically. After he helped me to my feet, he said "lick your mouth." I did so eagerly, savouring the last of my first feed.
"How was it?" he said.
I just nodded, still panting.
"Exciting, right?" said Hollow, "felt great? Like you've just been cured of extreme dehydration?"
I nodded again.
"Well, be careful, always remember, fifteen seconds max, otherwise you'll kill them, all right?"
"Sorry," I said.
"Don't be silly, it was your first time. There's nothing like it, right?"
And without warning, he scooped me into his arms and called for Crystal, gesturing for her to return to the top of the building. He followed shortly afterwards.
When we were back on the rooftop, Crystal burst into a fit of laughter. I was totally embarrassed; I couldn't look at Hollow.
"That was amazing!" she said, "didn't you hear me call you? I was yelling, telling you to stop!"
"All I could hear was their blood," I muttered.
"Oy, leave her be," said Hollow, "I bet you weren't an expert on your first go."
"I was better than that! let's do another one, ey, Sahara?" Crystal said, "now you've got a feel for it, you might as well continue."
"Is that okay?" I said to Hollow.
"Sure," he said, "take as much as you want."
"Will you come with us?" I said, "just to make sure I do it right? Give me some tips? That's why you came along this year, right? To tutor us?"
Hollow smiled. "Sure I will," he said. "I'll show you how I hunt as well. Sahara, was it?"
"All right, Sahara, Crystal. Let's go."
He jumped off the roof and swooped through the air into an arc, his black, bat-like hair whipping about his face majestically. Crystal and I followed afterwards, although our flight was less graceful.
We sailed through the city, hunting all night, until we were bloated and full. And that's how I completed my First Hunt. It was the night I became an adult.